Scales for Justice

Working towards peace and reconciliation

28th regular session of the HRC

Defending defenders

Scales for Justice (S4J) has defined the four fundamental freedoms - freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from fear and freedom from want - as the core field of its work. It is therefore particularly concrned about restrictions of the freedom of expression and actively engages for human rights defenders, who often face reprisals by powerful State agents for their criticism of human rights violations.

One of these cases is the EU recognized human rights defender Abdallah Aburahma, who in February 2015 was convicted by an Israeli Military Court to a suspended prison sentence of 4 months and a 5000 ILS fine (~ 1270 USD) in a clear attempt to deter him from his leading role in the popular struggle against the illegal occupation and confiscation of Palestine.

S4J has always been particularly concerned about his case, especially as in 2009/ 2010 Abdullah Aburahma has already spent 16 months in jail on dubious charges. Between October 2014 and February 2015, in collaboration with the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee (PSCC) in Palestine, S4J therefore sent urgent appeals to several UN Special Procedures, urging them to remind the Israeli authorities of their obligation under international law to protect HR defenders and clear Abdallah Aburahma from vexatious charges and allegations. Read the full report here.

Against this background Scales for Justice was glad to invite Abdallah Aburahma to Geneva to attend the meetings of the Human Rights Council, hold a statement in the Council, give a presentation at the UN and meet with representatives from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in order to ask for better protection. The Human Rights Council (HRC) is the UN's highest human rights body and its members rely upon human rights defenders to support them with information. For this reason there is a clear obligation to ensure that the information they receive from human rights defenders does not place them at risk.

At this place Scales for Justice would like to express its sincere thanks to Kurve Wustrow, which provided practical and financial support for Abdallah Aburahma's visit to Geneva, as well as to the International Youth and Student Movement to the UN (ISMUN), which gave Abdallah Aburahma the possibility to hold a statement in the Human Rights Council on Monday 23 March 2015:

Full text of the statement: Mr. President, It is an honor for me to address this session on behalf of ISMUN, which has always defended the rights of the Palestinian people at the Human Rights Council. My name is Abdallah Aburahma and I am the co-ordinator of the Bil'in Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements in occupied Palestine. Palestinians have been living under a brutal occupation for many decades now. As a human rights defender I have spent a good deal of my life in Israeli jail for peaceful activities on behalf of my people. Nevertheless Israel has continuously violated our most basic human rights, killed and arrested people and stolen our land, resources and taxes. We call for radically new measures to offer protection to the Palestinian people.

A few days ago the Israeli Prime Minister declared that he does not support a two state solution and will continue to build illegal settlements. Such a statement once again demonstrates Israel's total disrespect of international law and clearly demonstrates that concessions to the occupying power have brought us nowhere close to peace and justice. It is time for all to live up to their obligations according to international law and end all collaboration with Israeli settlements. We call on this Council to take to regularly report and review the existing collaboration with the settlements as well as action at the national and international level to end all collaboration with settlements must now be a high priority. Finally, we call on all groups and countries to fully participate under Item 7 at the next session of this Council and trust that the President of this Council and trust that the President of the council and the High Commissioner will undertake all diplomatic efforts to restore full participation and support for this important item on the Agenda.

Side events and meetings

On Monday 23 March 2015 Abdallah Aburahma participated in a panel at the UN under the title "War crimes committed in Gaza and other occupied Arab territories". The panel moderated by Scales for Justice further included the expert on Syria Dr. Ayssar Midani and Gilles Devers, a French lawyer who in 2009 was asked by the Palestinian Authority to file a lawsuit against the Israeli regime over the war on Gaza that killed about 1,400 Palestinians.

On Tuesday 24 March 2015 Scales for Justice then organized several meetings for Abdallah Aburahma, among others with the President of the Human Rights Council Joachim Rücker and with the UN Special Rapporteur on Palestine, Mr Marakim Wibison, with whom the delegation spoke for almost one hour to discuss the situation in Palestine. Mr Wibisono expressed his full sympathy and support for Abdallahs human rights activities and is looking forward to receive further updates.

On Wednesday 25 March 2015 S4J and Abdallah Abrahma then met with several assistants of UN Special Procedures at the Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). He further met with Jerome Bellion-Jourdan from the Permanent Delegation of the European Union to the UN Office in Geneva, who in his role as representaive of the European Union in Palestine attended all of Abdallah Aburahma's trials in 2010 and who helped to prepare the statement of Catherine Ashton when she wrote "The High Representative is concerned by the conviction of 39-year-old Abdallah Abu Rahma in an Israeli military court on charges of incitement and organising and attending demonstrations. ... The EU considers Abdallah Abu Rahma to be a Human Rights Defender committed to non violent protest ... (and) is deeply concerned that the possible imprisonment of Mr Abu Rahma is intended to prevent him and other Palestinians from exercising their legitimate right  to protest against the existence of the separation barriers in a non violent manner."

Below some pictures of Abdallah Aburahma's visit to the Human Rights Council and related meetings

What can be done for YOU

If you are a human rights defender and suffering from reprisals you may send an email to S4J and present your case. Depending on the circumstances S4J will then contact you, evaluate your case and consider which UN bodies could be engaged in your case. In cases of severe threats and reprisals S4J may also consider further action, including the possibility to bring you to the Human Rights Council to present your case.

Other activities and activities by S4J during the 28th session of the HRC can be found here